Fabric Shopping in Chiang Mai: My Haul

Hopefully you enjoyed reading about my experience fabric shopping in Chiang Mai. I’m sure what you really care about is my spoils, so here they are!

Thai pink and gold fabric

I started my Chiang Mai fabric shopping with something shiny and pink (not a big surprise to anyone, I’m sure). It was stacked outside the store with many other bolts of eye-catching fabric, much like the stores I used to frequent on my trips to the L.A. fashion district (I’m a sucker for shiny no matter where in the world I am, I guess). It’s synthetic, but decent quality, albeit a bit scratchy on the wrong side, so whatever it becomes will need to be lined/underlined.

thai metallic peacock fabric

The other synthetic fabric that I bought (yes, it was labeled “Thai silk”. no, it is not actually silk. trust me) had a lustrous gold and silver peacock design woven into a border print. Like the pink fabric above, it’s quite narrow (30″?). It’s pretty heavy, with almost no drape, so probably suited for a jacket (unintentional pun there), but I’ve got to come up with something creative that really shows off the peacocks.

Mae Ta Lampang fabric

Now on to the amazing assortment of beautiful, locally made cottons I got! Gaye started our trip by gifting me a length of mudmee (the Thai word for ikat, also spelled as matmi or mudmi) made in the Mae Ta village of Lampang Province. Gaye lives in Lampang, which is about an hour and a half drive away from Chiang Mai.

thai heavy woven cotton

Next came two mid-weight cottons, moderately course weave with a good drape. I bought both of these spurred by delightful sewing chat that Gaye and I had been having. We were sharing our mutual hatred of the color beige, my love of bright colors, and talking about how silly it was that I sewed so much beige and gray this winter. We had just gotten to the point of our mutual like of gray for how well it plays off of bright colors, and I found the pink and gray cotton, so I had to buy it. Behind that bolt was the orange, which we decided was a “subtle orange” and since one can so rarely say “subtle orange” it too must be bought.

hmong embroidered trims

My biggest splurge was perhaps an assortment of embroidered trims in a traditional Hmong style. I swooned over the bright colors and gorgeous geometric designs. It’s going to take some creativity to use these because they are quite stiff (perhaps they will soften in a wash?). A traditional Hmong outfit would use them running down the length of sleeves or a blouse front, as cuffs, or on a skirt hem. I actually have quite a collection of beautiful trims at home but rarely use them since I never quite remember to plan a garment around them and they never work as an afterthought. So, I promise to myself that I will be planning a garment(/s) around these gorgeous trims!

jomthong salong woven cotton

I bought a selection of midweight cottons (with less drape and a bit tighter weave than the ones above). They were labeled as Jomthong salong, meaning that they were made in the Jomthong (also written as Chom Thong or Jomtong) region, again not far from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

thai ikat mudmee fabric

The Thai mudmee (a.k.a. ikats) were where I went a little crazy. I was very reasonable on my first trip, buying only one double-length (~4 yards), saving some money to buy silk. And then Gaye and I didn’t find silk, so I dragged Adam back to the Warorot market a few days after my initial trip with Gaye and that’s where a whole stack of mudmee ended up in my shopping bag. Oops :)

thai fancy 5 color ikat mudmee fabric

Most of the mudmee I bought had 2-3 colors although I did buy a couple of fancy 5 color fabrics as well. My sweet, patient, understanding husband sat out front of the shop, patiently entertaining himself with his iphone, while I went on a fabric frenzy inside. Best honeymoon gift he could give me!

burmese fabric

I feel a tiny bit guilty about buying this amazing black and green fabric. There was a length of it hanging in the front of the shop that Gaye was admiring, saying that she hadn’t seen anything like it. The shopkeeper explained that it is Burmese. (Quick geography lesson, most of Thailand’s western border is shared with Burma/Myanmar). When I went back to the shop, I discovered that there was a whole stack of similar fabrics in different colors (although I happened to end up deciding on the one that Gaye liked so much. But no fear Gaye, I’m not a horrible friend! There was more!)

thai knitting pattern book

Finally, in a little drugstore where we ducked in to buy some sunscreen, there was a whole shelf of Thai knitting and crochet magazines! Of course I had to buy one. I’m not sure that I will ever knit anything from the magazine (although maybe I have to because it makes for a great story), but the patterns are very heavily charted, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out the pattern, right??

thai charted knitting pattern

So, do tell! What’s your favorite of my fabric scores? And how would you sew up any (or all) of these fabrics!? Have you made anything fabulous with ikat that I should imitate?

Comments 19

  1. I love your recollection of the conversations about color because other sewcialists and a few artists are the only ones that I know that would get in depth about such a thing.

  2. Your mudmee/ikat haul is making me drool–so many gorgeous color combinations!!

    I made a Scout Tee out of a genuine ikat last month and LOVE it, and plan to hack the same pattern to make a loose, casual dress out of the other ikat I bought as well. Apart from the loose weave and fraying, it was a great fabric to work with.

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  3. You were so lucky to have a guide – I found only cottons (printed poplin, eyelet) at worarot/chiang mai, but very happy with what I picked up there. My one piece of mut mee I got in Vientiane. A tourist group came through the shop I was in and pounced on them!

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      Ooh, any tips for fabric shopping in Vientiane? I’m headed there in a few weeks :)
      I think I’ve already bought more than enough fabric in Thailand (since I stumbled across some more fabric at a market in Mae Hong Son yesterday). But I have to buy something in every country that I visit, right??

  4. I really can’t decide what my favourite piece is, those are all such amazingly gorgeous fabrics! I love picking up traditional fabrics on trips (when you can find them!) such a great feeling when you get to wear them. Amazing finds!

  5. Fabulous haul and excellent husband! I have to say my favorite fabric score was the beautiful Italian wools I found on the “coupon” (remnant) table the haute couture fabric store Janssens et Janssens in Paris. They still cost a fortune at half the price, but I’ll be wearing my makes from them for a long time.

  6. WOW! You bought some really gorgeous fabrics! I can’t say I blame you for returning to purchase a stack of those Thai mudmee prints! They’re gorgeous.

  7. I hope you are planning to share some of the mudmee with your mother who has generously donated to your stash your whole sewing life. Love, Mom

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  8. Love the mudmee fabrics as well as the black and green Burmese fabric. I’m a fellow Seattle-ite and I’d love to see those fabrics in person one day!

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  9. I totally understand. I’m in Chiang Mai now and hoping to do the same! Actually on my honeymoon too ☺️
    I’m having a hard time finding the real Hmong & mumde fabrics. Were you shopping in China Mai, outside of it? Any suggestions?

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  10. Did you get to the Hmong wholesale fabric section of Warawot on the far West side? I’d love to see creations that result from the antique fabric there.

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